All entries for Thursday 04 May 2006

May 04, 2006

IVF and older mothers

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The top headline on today's BBC News homepage is the story of Patricia Rashbrook, 63, who is now seven months pregnant with her fourth baby after undergoing IVF treatment abroad by controversial fertility doctor Severino Antinori.

  • Should someone have the right to have a child irrespective of their circumstances, be that age or anything else?

  • Why should the state or a doctor have the right to deny a women the chance of having a baby when she has the means and is in reasonable health?

  • Should the increased health risks of pregnancy and birthing for older women be taken into account even if the mother is determined to go ahead despite these risks? Should we also consider the increased risk of genetic disease?

  • Are the Rashbrooks putting the welfare of their child first? Or are they being selfish?

  • Is there a difference between a women who is reproductively challenged but of a childbearing age undergoing IVF and one who is post–menopausal? Is one more unnatural than the other? This concept of what is natural is difficult. Is it unnatural for us to undergo any other surgical treatment? Or take drugs?

  • Antinori defends his actions by arguing that Rashbrook has a life expectancy of at least another 20 years so she should live to see her child into adulthood. Is this a reasonable argument? Is it fair to expect the child to potentially take on the role of carer for their parents before they are an adult?

  • Antinori also argues that older people make better parents. Is this generally–held assumption true? Is it valid to say that beyond a certain point parental skills may well deteriorate, as mobility and agility decrease. If women were meant to raise children into their old age why would the menopause exist? Is there something to be said about problems of a gap of two generations rather than just one?

  • Is there more of a stigma attached to older mothers than older fathers? Why is this?

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